South Korea, China to lead travel recovery
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South Korea, China to lead travel recovery

Japanese remain wary, Expedia says

A Chinese tour group visits the Grand Palace in 2018. According to a McKinsey survey, the Chinese are the nationality most optimistic about an economic rebound.  Taweechai Tawatpakorn
A Chinese tour group visits the Grand Palace in 2018. According to a McKinsey survey, the Chinese are the nationality most optimistic about an economic rebound.  Taweechai Tawatpakorn

South Korea, China and Hong Kong are the most probable places of origin for the first tourist groups to travel abroad as sentiment improves, according to Expedia.

Nick Andrews, senior director for market management at Expedia Group, said South Korea was barely hit by the coronavirus outbreak and saw domestic air capacity start to return in April and accelerate sharply in May, according to data from Capa Centre for Aviation.

Mr Andrews expects the upward trend to continue as the country further eases restrictions.

The positive trend also shows in Expedia's data with improvement in daily bookings towards the end of April, which possibly indicates the potential return of domestic tourism in South Korea.

In China, statistics from Capa found that domestic travel has been increasing since late April as the public returns to work after the relaxing of domestic restrictions.

Mr Andrews said the search trends for Japan's domestic flights remain low after the number of new cases continued to rise in April, while the extension of the state emergency until the end of May means the domestic trend won't move upward any time soon.

Expedia also found that domestic economic recovery can serve as another indicator of how consumers will spend on trips overseas.

According to McKinsey & Co's Covid-19 Consumer Pulse Survey, the Chinese are the most optimistic about an economic rebound, while the Japanese are the most pessimistic compared with Chinese and South Koreans.

Mr Andrews said Hong Kong is another potential market because people tend to prioritise travel experiences over luxury goods and gadgets as long as they can make up for lost time, according to a DDB Group Hong Kong survey.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific expects to resume international flights, especially daily flights to major Asian cities, at the end of June, another positive sign.

Speaking on Tuesday at the "Covid-19: Thailand's Travel and Tourism Strategies" webinar held by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Expedia Group and the Thai Hotels Association (THA), TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the tourism recovery can be divided into three phases.

Thailand is currently at the first "lockdown exit" stage that requires operators to prepare for a new normal and marketing campaigns tailored to soft sales.

The second phase will be the "selective opening" period in which the country opens 50-60% to tourists from countries that have contained the virus in order to prevent a second wave of infections.

Eventually Thailand will enter the "extensive opening" period, which is expected to take at least 3-6 months to fully open for global tourists.

The agency already introduced the Safety and Health Administration guidelines covering 10 tourism-related businesses with cooperation from the Public Health Ministry.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, THA vice-president and chairwoman of the environmental committee, said the coronavirus crisis will be the end of mass tourism and the beginning of quality and sustainable travel.

Thailand must protect the environment, communities and cultures because these aspects can attract new travellers, she said.

Destination management, including balancing hotel supply with demand, is another crucial part of the success of quality tourism in the long run.

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